10 non-obvious questions to ask your construction partner

We are often asked by our clients to provide answers to standard qualification questions: What is your relevant experience? Who are the project team members? What is your project approach? While these are all important questions to ask, there are other questions clients may be missing to give you better insight into what it will be like to work with that partner.

We also believe that at the core of a productive project is a collaborative team that is willing to ask the non-obvious questions in the beginning to ensure an obvious outcome in the end – success. 

01.  What is your team’s approach to communication and adapting to change?

Clear lines of communication must be established upfront and kept open throughout the duration of a project. Asking this question before construction begins can help set up a communication plan for both day-to-day operations and any challenges that occur during the project. 

02.  How do you ensure everyone’s personal safety on the jobsite?

Making sure you have a safe jobsite goes far beyond hanging the required signage and wearing the proper PPE (personal protection equipment). While those are important, safety is personal.  The environment onsite should make each person feel empowered to speak up when they see an unsafe situation and have confidence in their construction manager to support the concern and rectify the situation immediately. 

03.  What information will you seek from us to establish an accurate budget that we can share with our leadership team?

When questions like this are asked early on and detailed, upfront planning occurs, the estimating process is both smooth and accurate. The more information you can share with your construction partner during the pre-construction phase, the more confident you can be that you have a complete budget you can use to present to project stakeholders, secure financing and build your project. 

04.  How will your company engage all project stakeholders in our quality objectives?

From the project executives to the tradespeople onsite, and even the manufacturers, each person’s participation is essential to an effective quality management plan. In addition to reviewing the drawings for constructability, pre-installation meetings help coordinate all players to install the work correctly, and regular inspections ensure the plan was followed. 

05.  How are you going to build your schedule to incorporate our specific business needs?

The start and end date, and all the milestones in between, are vital components of every project schedule. Just as important is integrating the unique needs of each client into the project timeline. Could the project- specific cost and spending constraints impact the schedule?  This may include the need to have a defined amount of costs and construction committed on the project by a specified date, due to tax implications, annual business cycles or funding resources.  It is important that your construction partner can address and manage these issues along with the bricks and mortar construction processes.  

06.  How will you seek to understand the design intent of this project?

The design of a project is the client’s vision. The designers worst fear is that the vision will be lost once the drawings are handed over to the contractor and the plans are value engineered to bring the project within budget. It’s important that your construction partner has a plan for learning the reasons and planning behind the vision and designs so they can make recommendations that keep those intentions in place.

07.  How will your company represent us in our local community?

How a company is engaged in the community in which it resides says a lot about its culture. And it says a lot about how they will represent you during your project. When entering a new community or extending your presence in your existing home, construction tends to generate buzz and excitement. Some clients want their projects to remain confidential; others welcome the exposure as long as it’s positive. The right partner will do their best to uphold your company’s standards and reputation as their own. 

08.  How do you spark engagement and commitment from the subcontractor community?

We’re only as good as our subcontractors. It is important that your construction manager recognizes the significance of their trade partners, educates them on the client’s goals for the project and welcomes their input so everyone involved is working towards a successful project and bringing the client's vision to reality. 

09.  How do you utilize technology and embrace innovative practices?

In today’s world, technology seems to be a part of everything we do. Some embrace it because it’s new; others are slow to adopt it… because it’s new. Sometimes the expense outweighs the benefits; other times the savings that technology brings makes it a no-brainer. It’s important that your contractor understands the right technology that is needed for the job and shares the benefits that using it offers you – whether enhanced quality, improved productivity or help with decision-making. For more information, read our post: 10 technologies that will change how we build in the next decade.  

10.  How will you make this experience enjoyable for our end-user?

Every client and project is different, but one expectation is the same: their desire to satisfy the end-user. No one wants unhappy employees, shoppers, patients, students, residents or whoever the group may be. A good construction partner will find ways of making sure these user groups are as happy with the construction process and outcome as possible. It may be offering tours for employees during an office renovation or putting nurses and doctors through a virtual reality simulation to see the functionality of their future space. 

 

There are plenty of contractors out there who can build your project. The questions about past experience and process will help you find those who are qualified. But these less obvious questions will help you distinguish the best from among the qualified and form a collaborative, lasting relationship with your construction partner.

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